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Flyers-Lightning Preview

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A frustrating season has reached meltdown status for Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella.

Now tied for last in the Eastern Conference, the struggling Lightning will take the ice Saturday against the Philadelphia Flyers, who have had their own difficulties stringing together wins.

Following a 5-2 loss to Montreal on Thursday - Tampa Bay's eighth in 10 games - Tortorella said his team is missing one key component.

"We have zip for confidence," he said. "We can't give our problems to someone else. We need to mentally, first of all, start thinking, 'I need to make a difference. I need to regain my confidence here.' Hopefully a few guys start doing that, and maybe a good thing happens."

With only 33 points approaching the halfway point of the season, the 2004 Stanley Cup champions are tied with Washington at the bottom of the East.

"This is pretty low," forward Martin St. Louis said. "This is as low as we've hit for a long time. It happens. You don't like it when it happens. You grow from it, and you battle though it. There's no doubt in my mind we'll come out of this."

Facing Philadelphia may help Tampa Bay (15-20-3) regain its confidence. Since January 2003, the Lightning are 6-1-0 at the St. Pete Times Forum against the Flyers, with the lone loss coming by one goal.

Still, goaltending remains the biggest reason for the Lightning's recent woes. Johan Holmqvist was replaced by rookie Karri Ramo 10 seconds into the second period Thursday after allowing a soft goal to Alexei Kovalev. Ramo then allowed two goals in a 24-second span in the opening minute of the third that extended the Canadiens' lead to 5-0.

Marc Denis, once projected to be Tampa Bay's starting goaltender, was placed on waivers Friday. If Denis, who is in the second season of a three-year, $8.6 million contract, clears waivers, the Lightning will assign him to Norfolk of the AHL.

Against the Canadiens, Vincent Lecavalier was held without a point for only the fourth time in 13 games this month but continues to lead the league with 55 points. Both he and Brad Richards will to try extend long points streaks at home against the Flyers.

Lecavalier has three goals and 10 assists in a nine-game streak, while Richards has four goals and 11 assists in a seven-game run. He registered two goals and an assist on Oct. 25 in Tampa Bay's 5-2 win Philadelphia.

The Flyers snapped a season-high six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Toronto on Thursday. Joffrey Lupul posted his third multigoal game this month and Daniel Briere added a goal and assist.

"After a while you forget what it is to win," Briere said. "It tastes a lot better than losing, the way we were lately, especially the way we were finding ways to lose. That was frustrating."

Bolstered by a career-best six-point game on Dec. 11, Lupul has been one of the NHL's most prolific scorers since then. He has nine goals - tying two others for the most - and his 15 points ties him for third.

Philadelphia will try to post back-to-back victories for the first time since Nov. 10-12, when it beat Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders, respectively. The Flyers' five wins against Southeast foes are their most against any division outside the Atlantic.

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